New funding will boost research into use of complementary medicine

Photo of donors to complementary medicine with Professor Attila Brungs

Pictured: UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs, Eyal Wolstin representing BioCeuticals, Marcus Blackmore AM representing Blackmore Foundation and Terri Albert representing the Jacka Foundation.

A scientific research program that aims to improve understanding into the ways health consumers and practitioners use naturopathy and other complementary medicines is to be expanded with the support of $1.5 million in funding from the Blackmore Foundation, BioCeuticals and the Jacka Foundation.

Funding will support two new research fellowships within the Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine (ARCCIM) at the University of Technology Sydney, led by Professor of Public Health Jon Adams.

ARCCIM is a world-leading critical public health and health services research centre focusing on traditional, complementary and integrative health care and brings together experts in epidemiology and health economics. Its work has received substantial government funding, including prestigious research fellowships from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). Professor Adams is an ARC Professorial Future Fellow.

Half of the $1.5 million donation will come from Marcus Blackmore’s personal philanthropic trust, the Blackmore Foundation. Mr Blackmore, who recently became the first Australian to be inducted into the US Natural Products Hall of Legends, says: “My commitment to naturopathy and natural health therapies has been life-long as has my passion for research into complementary medicines and, in particular, naturopathy. Australia is regarded as a world leader in this research, largely due to the work of centres like ARCCIM. I look forward to seeing the results of this ongoing research.”

“This new support will help us grow critical and rigorous public health research into the opportunities and challenges of therapies like naturopathy,” says Professor Adams. “It will help us answer important research questions such as the reasons people use naturopathy and other complementary medicines, how they make decisions about the medicines and the therapies they use and how practitioners such as naturopaths connect and communicate with mainstream hospital and primary care systems.”

These and other questions are important as we face major challenges that include an ageing population, chronic illness and a health system under stress, says Eyal Wolstin, Managing Director of BioCeuticals. “The complementary and integrative medicine landscape involves an array of medicines and practitioners and the work of ARCCIM will help to build the broad evidence base needed to inform policy development this significant area of health care.”

Marcus Blackmore agrees: “Our involvement in this donation is a reflection of our unswerving and ongoing responsibility and obligation to finding the most efficacious and evidence-based approaches for practitioners and their patients. This research will be Australia-focused, national in scale and independent, since the centre will design and apply it as it sees fit.”

“Medical research creates a pathway to better healthcare which ultimately benefits the entire community.”

Professor Prasuna Reddy, Associate Dean, International and Advancement, UTS Faculty of Health, says: “This kind of industry support for independent scientific research enhances the ability of centres like ARCCIM to do pioneering work. It will help drive our understanding of what happens in the real world and help shape practice.”

Judy Jacka, Vice-Chair of the Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies, which is also supporting the funding boost, says its commitment to the five-year partnership with ARCCIM "marries perfectly with our ongoing support for naturopathy and complementary medicine practice and research".

"We are proud to be supporting such world-leading methodologists and their established research program subjecting complementary medicine and practice to critical, rigorous scientific inquiry. The success of ARCCIM capacity-building initiatives is essential to growing the evidence base and future consideration of this important health care topic for the benefit of all those providing and receiving health care across Australia and internationally."

This new funding builds upon existing support from the three donors for the ARCCIM International Naturopathy Research Leadership Program, which mentors early career researchers from around the world.

Health Minister Greg Hunt commended investment by individuals, companies and groups such as the three donors into Australian health research. “People like Marcus Blackmore and the team at BioCeuticals are making a significant contribution through their funding of Australian research centres, giving us a better understanding of natural therapies," he says. “Medical research creates a pathway to better healthcare which ultimately benefits the entire community,” he says.

The Blackmore Foundation is the private philanthropic trust of Marcus and Caroline Blackmore. Mr Blackmore is executive director of Blackmores, the natural health company founded by his father, Maurice, who was Queensland’s first naturopath. Blackmores is Australia’s largest healthcare company.

BioCeuticals, a subsidiary of Blackmores Limited, is proudly Australian and renowned for manufacturing and delivering high-quality integrative medicines to healthcare practitioners. BioCeuticals consistently aims to raise the standards of complementary therapies.

The Jacka Foundation for Natural Therapies is a not-for-profit charitable fund that carries out philanthropic activities in the fields of naturopathy and natural therapies.

Byline: Lesley Parker